FOXBURG, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Three Union/A-C Valley football games that were scheduled to be played at A-C Valley High School this season have been moved to Union because of safety concerns.
(Above, Union/A-C Valley players warm up on the field at A-C Valley High School before a game against Sheffield last September)
Several Union/A-C Valley coaches, many of whom are A-C Valley graduates, approached the school board with their desire to move the games.
Falcon Knights’ assistant coach Chris McNany was at a school board meeting held remotely on Aug. 8 and again at an in-person meeting on Monday evening to make the coaches’ case. He also raised issues with the field at a meeting last December.
“There’s seven guys on our staff that are A-C Valley alums and we’re certainly not trying to take football away from A-C Valley,” McNany said. “If anything, we’ve been fighting for the last 10, 12 years to keep it there. We’ve had other coaches approach us before games about the field and brought it to our attention. We’ve had officials say stuff in the past. It’s an ongoing thing.
“I’ve played football for 10 years in my life and I’ve been coaching it for the better part of 20 years,” McNany added. “I don’t want to put an athlete out there with a chance to get hurt playing on field we walk on before the game and don’t deem in fit. Ultimately, it’s a safety thing.”
McNany said at least one team nearly refused to play at A-C Valley because of field conditions.
“They’ve used the term, ‘ridiculous,’ terms like that,” McNany said. “They’ve said this isn’t a suitable field to have a Friday night lights game on.”
After much debate, the board passed the motion by a 5-4 vote.
Those in favor of moving the games sited safety issues. Those who opposed it said the A-C Valley community would lose out on home football games and the school and booster clubs would lose important revenue.
Games against Cameron County on Aug. 26, Kane on Sept. 23 and Smethport on Oct. 14 will now be played at Union.
A-C Valley hopes to host games again as soon as the field issues are resolved, maybe as soon as next season.
The question now is what needs to be done to make that happen? And where to start?
“There is an interest, but funding is a major issue,” said A-C Valley athletic director Dave Sherman, who also sits on the field committee. “We’re looking at different grants and so forth. That’s a big, big undertaking and we’re not talking a little bit of money either.”
There are already several options on the table.
One, McNany said, is renovating the existing field, lowering the crown and re-sodding it, as well as other stadium fixes, such as lighting.
McNany said another possible solution would be to build a new facility at the location of the track, which is also unusable at the moment because of wear and tear.
One thing is clear, McNany said. Whatever the decision is, it needs to be made soon.
A-C Valley superintendent Dr. David McDeavitt agreed.
“It might be enough motivation … to get the committee moving in the right direction and fix what should be fixed, long term,” said McDeavitt, who is also a field committee member.
Funding is a major issue, McDeavitt said at the remote meeting Aug. 8.
“We’re working as hard as we can to try to locate grant money to update that football field because the last thing we want to do is lose football on a Friday night,” McDeavitt said. “We’re just in a very difficult situation.”
At least the issue is being addressed now, McNany said.
“We’re at least looking at different plans and what we can do,” McNany said. “Just, unfortunately, we just didn’t have the time this year to get the field in proper shape.”
The co-op between Union and A-C Valley for football began in 2016. Last year was the most successful season for the Falcon Knights, who went 9-3 and won two home playoff games before falling in the District 9 Class A final to Redbank Valley.
Both of those playoff games were played at Union.
McNany is hoping one day to host a playoff game at A-C Valley.
Since 2016, Union and A-C Valley have entered into more co-ops. Currently, the baseball, golf and track and field teams are combined.
Co-ops in all sports have been very successful.
“I think you gotta give credit to the coaches and the kids,” said Union athletic director Scott Kindel. “The coaches and the athletes have to make it work and they have gone above and beyond. These kids are best friends on and off the field.”
A-C Valley’s field will still be used for youth football games. The team will also still split practice time between the two schools.
“We can’t complain a bit about the success we’ve had with the co-ops, and I think the football team is going to do some good things (this year),” Sherman said. “Track was a great success and so was baseball.”
McNany said in the short term the coaches are pleased, but he hopes effort will be made and money raised and spent to improve the A-C Valley facility.
“Union has a beautiful field and that option is available to us,” McNany said. “No matter what we do, you’re talking about a major renovation that needs to be done to make it suitable. Whatever steps we take, we have to come to that decision relatively soon.”